of the Korean company Samick. Samick is by far the largest guitar manufacturer in the world, and many big brands have used or continue to use them for some of their most well-known guitars. Think of a well-known electric guitar maker – including those with both offshore and ‘made in the US’ lines – and the chances are that at some point they have outsourced manufacture to Samick. A statement on Samick’s website reads: ‘While it is widely-known that Samick manufactures other brands of guitars, we do not publish or discuss any of those valuable relationships.’
Own-brand Samicks sailing close to the wind – but with original headstocks
Might this mass sub-contracting of manufacture have had an effect on the abundance of fakes coming out of the Far East? John Hall thinks so. ‘Of this there is no question. Chinese factories essentially have no “off” switch; they work from eight-to-five producing their contract customer’s “genuine” line, and then spend the rest of the day producing copy goods on the same production line. Both the factories and the outsourcers deny this, but it’s been proven many times.’
internal and external controls and processes to ensure compliance with the law and also as to the use of Fender’s intellectual property.’
Perhaps the big brands trying to fight the problem have their heads firmly in the sand on this issue; perhaps they really are unaware of the truth. Either way, competition for lower costs of production seems, on the face of it, to fuel the problem and force the Chinese factories into shady practices just so they can feed their families. ‘Knowing how we
While this is certainly true, it seems hard to be absolutely certain that nothing untoward is happening? Thwaites explains how easy it is to get round the ‘internal control’. ‘A very common strategy is for factory A to produce widget X for some multinational, with that
The irony, according to Hall, is that the big brands are actually funding the problem they seek to stamp out. ‘The legitimate outsourced goods makers are subsidising the copy market by providing enough business to allow factory creation, expansion and amortisation,’ he reasons, ‘otherwise there would not likely be the economic means for those factories to exist.’
multinational trying to control production processes and numbers by having foreign staff on the factory floor 24/7. What the multinational is completely unaware of, however, is that the owners
‘It’s common for a factory to overproduce a genuine product and sell the surplus out of the back door at a fraction of the price’
Richard Thwaites has also seen this situation arise. ‘It’s common for a factory to overproduce a genuine product and sell the surplus out the back door at a fraction of the price. It’s often the sole source of profit for a factory that bids for manufacturing contracts at cost, or below cost.’
maintain our business affairs, this is not something we’re aware of,’ says Fender’s Graeme Mathieson. ‘Any global company should know who they’re doing business with and how that business gets done. We use both of factory A also own factory B across town, which is producing the same product using the same “secrets”. The product is being manufactured with the exact same materials and processes on identical machines, sometimes with the same workers,
Cover star: REAL OR NOT?
Vintage guitars that aren’t quite the real deal – it’s a huge subject, and we’ll touch on it again in Hooked On Classics on page 96… but what about the guitar on this month’s cover: is it real, or not? The clues are there to be found…
So: maple top, PAFs, Tun-O-Matic, stop tail, gold bonnet knobs… at first glance it’s a ’58-’60 Les Paul Standard, with the top refinished natural. If that’s your answer – well, you’ve just lost well upwards of 50 grand.
It is, however, a real old Gibson. It was made in Kalamazoo, Michigan over half a century ago, and if you took it apart it you’d see that those are real period PAFs, and the metalwork is real ’59, and the plastic is ’50s too.
There are two giveaways. The three-piece top is a sign that this was once a goldtop, as sunburst LPs were always centre-jointed and bookmatched… and the tiny circle of inlaid maple just below the bass foot of the bridge – and that shows where a stoptail once was.
Bingo! It’s a classic fake – an earlier Les Paul (a ’54) with stoptail and P90s removed, and ’59-’60 hardware put in place. The only things that are repro are the pickup surrounds. Oh, and yes, it’s a refinish as well, with the lacquer work done by luthier and friend of G&B Dave King.
We had fun selecting this guitar to show you. It demonstrates some of the kind of basic things any vintage guitar lover should know about before they go out buying, and we’re happy to put it on our cover because we’re not promoting a ‘fake’– it’s a real vintage Gibson, remodelled yet ‘transparent’, with its history laid out for all to see. (It’s also a great guitar, and because it’s pretty much as close to a player-grade ’59 Les Paul as you’re ever going to get, it’s a desirable and valuable one in its own right.)
But imagine this old ’54 had been given an aged two-piece top. Could you spot it? Many ‘experts’ couldn’t. And what are the chances that there aren’t a bunch of those floating around?
24 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012